COVID-19 has brought with it a great deal of disruption to daily life. For most of us, thankfully (hopefully!), not life-threatening however, consisting of things like show cancellations, home schooling, working from home, postponed travel plans and not being able to ride or run. Everyone’s individual circumstances vary, but if nothing else, Corona Virus has taught us all how quickly circumstances can change, the value of life and how powerless we really are in the greater scheme of things.

It’s only a few days in to the lockdown and for most of us it feels like an average weekend. While still surreal, the novelty of this situation will soon run thin and we hope that in those moments we can all rather look for lessons to be learnt and gratitude for what we had and have. We’ve found 8 things that the COVID-19 lockdown has taught us to appreciate as equestrians:

  1. Our sport requires us to spend time outdoors

While many other sports require time indoors in the gym or a studio, putting in countless hours of training, ours requires that we spend time outdoors – whether it be in an arena or out in the country. May we never again take for granted sunny skies and wide open spaces that we’re privileged to ride in after having it taken away from us literally overnight.

2. Every time we go riding for some ‘alone-time’ – we’re not actually alone And that’s the most comforting thought possible. Some of us will be in quarantine with family, others with room mates and some of us on our own. Each scenario presents its own set of benefits and disadvantages – no privacy, no company, too much noise, too much silence – but regardless of which you find yourself in, once we’re passed the pandemic we will again value the freedom to choose who we spend our time with.

3. Health & Mobility For most of us, jumping on our horses and riding for 45 minutes to an hour fairly strenuously comes easily, with little more than a brow sweat on a hot day. We have subconsciously forgotten the physical effort it takes to mount a horse, we no longer feel the burn in our legs as our muscles have become accustomed to the exercise and we often take our mobility for granted – the simple fact that we can even physically ride in the first place. Time away from the saddle makes us realise just how lucky we are for health, fitness and mobility – for some, sitting or lying still all day is a reality, one from which they can’t escape in a couple of weeks.

4. Escapism Often, we only learn the true value something once it’s taken away from us – and the same goes for freedom. With 3 weeks spent in quarantine, not only will we appreciate the physical freedom riding horses provides us with, but more so the emotional freedom. The escapism from daily stresses for just a short while as we concentrate on being present, in the moment, and in the elation of doing what we love. We often underestimate the benefit riding horses has for our mental health and wellbeing.

5. Unconditional Love  The mere fact that not being able to see or ride our horses brings us such sadness means we have something worth missing – a privilege not everyone will experience in their lives. It’s not the loss of riding time we mourn, it’s the companionship we miss. 6. Appreciating our Equine Village If nothing else, this lockdown has shown us the passion and willingness of those within our industry. From the Stable managers who have moved in at the yard office to ensure they keep an eye on the horses, to the grooms who have extra responsibilities monitoring horses and providing cuddles on our behalf, to the essential service providers who are on call and prepared to go out to the stables when we can’t.

7. Anticipation Riding horses is, for most of us, the highlight of our day – something we look forward to from the moment we open our eyes and motivation to get through the work day. The next few weeks may feel like ‘Groundhog Day’ with little changing from day to day, so going forward may we all better appreciate the ‘chore’ of getting through the work or school day and the privilege of having something to look forward to.

8. A Sense of Purpose  For those who haven’t set goals for the lockdown period, twenty one days may feel like an eternity. For those who have, being productive and achieving targets (no matter how trivial they may seem – ie cleaning out the garage) will make quarantine feel like time well spent. Human nature has a yearning for a sense of achievement and how blessed are we to participate in a sport that sees frequent improvement and development – whether ours, or our horses. The acknowledgement isn’t necessarily verbal, often it’s the unspoken victories that mean so much more – new dressage movements learnt, seeing strides into fences or changes in behaviour. A sense of purpose keeps us motivated and determined. As we all look forward to a ‘new’ future, returning to some form of ‘normality’ and finding new opportunities – may we never forget the lessons learnt and the value and insight gained from this lockdown experience.

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